Why the army has still not been sent to Cape Flats: defence minister explains

Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told a press briefing on Wednesday why there has been a delay in sending the SANDF to the Cape Flats.
Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told a press briefing on Wednesday why there has been a delay in sending the SANDF to the Cape Flats.

The delay in the deployment of soldiers in the Cape Flats to help police clamp down on gangsterism, which has led to a spate of murders over the past two weeks, was intended to introduce an element of surprise, defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said on Wednesday.

The minister was addressing a media briefing on Wednesday ahead of her budget vote speech in the National Assembly.

Following the announcement of the deployment last week, at least 43 people were killed in Cape Town between Friday and Monday. This was also despite a heightened police presence in some of the city's most violent areas, such as Philippi, where 13 people were killed the previous weekend.

The troops assembled in Cape Town on Monday ahead of their deployment, which the minister said was intended to act as a deterrent and to stabilise the situation.

"As far as we are concerned the kind of criminality that has been going on here, the fact that we are ruled by gangs in the Western Cape, points to the fact that there is a serious undermining of the authority of the state."

In this situation it was appropriate for the army to be deployed to support the police, Mapisa-Nqakula said.

The withdrawal of the troops would be driven by intelligence on the ground.

Police minister Bheki Cele announced in his budget vote speech last Thursday that President Cyril Ramaphosa had approved the deployment of soldiers in gang-infested areas of the Cape Flats to help with police operations over the next three months.

The 10 areas where they will be present are Bishop Lavis, Mitchells Plain, Delft, Elsies River, Nyanga, Khayelitsha, Mfuleni, Philippi, Kraaifontein and Manenberg.

Mapisa-Nqakula highlighted the issue of the department's declining budget, saying that the defence force was becoming "progressively more unsustainable".

"We have now reached the point where the republic must decide on the kind of defence force it wants and what it can afford.

"We need a frank discussion very soon as we risk irreversible damage to the defence force as a whole. A comparative analysis of our Southern African Development Community partners indicates how underfunded the SANDF is. Regional defence budgets are increasing while our defence budget is declining."

Specific threats faced by SA included porous borders, terrorism and fundamentalism by extremist groups. More troops are needed to patrol the borders.

The DA's defence spokesperson, Kobus Marais, highlighted the problem of underfunding of the defence force, warning that the defence department was facing  a "day zero" scenario.

"Comparable countries with a GDP growth rate of 3%-4% spend 2%-3% of their annual GDP on their defence budget. SA has a GDP growth rate of around 1%, but allocates only 0.93% of its annual GDP to the department of defence. 

"We must realise we are approaching the cliff at an alarming pace. Our defence industry, a potentially significant contributor to economic growth and job creation, can no longer depend on the procurement by the SANDF, and we see more and more SA-designed and manufactured defence equipment being used by foreign nations," Marais said.

He said the SANDF required about R80bn to fund its programmes and projects but only R50.5bn, or 62%, was approved, with inadequate provision for the acquisition of equipment.

With Aron Hyman